About $400,000 is being awarded to land conservation efforts in Stowe and Mount Holly, with a few million more being distributed to affordable housing projects across the state.
The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) announced Tuesday the awarding of $6,656,970 in grants to organizations in Addison, Orleans, Lamoille, Windham, Rutland and Chittenden counties.
In Mount Holly, VHCB awarded $200,000 to a partnership between the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Vermont Land Trust and Mount Holly Conservation Trust to purchase 340 acres of land that will link Okemo State Forest to the Green Mountain National Forest. The land is off Route 155, according to a VHCB statement.
Gus Seelig, executive director of VHCB, said in an interview Tuesday these awards are funded through a mix of state and federal money. He said about two years ago, the state put $37 million towards affordable housing, which is raised through selling bonds, so some of that money is being used in these grants. He said for every $1 awarded for land conservation, about $1.50 is being used for affordable housing.
The federal funding sources are the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
When it comes to who gets a grant, Seelig said a number of criteria are considered. With regards to land conservation, VHCB likes to conserve farmland and areas that are ecologically important or have recreational opportunities.
In Stowe, $200,000 was awarded to the Stowe Land Trust to help it acquire 750 acres of forest on the west side of the Worcester Range, which it will then turn over to the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. The entire acquisition is for $5.5 million. The purchase will expand the 14,000-acre C.C. Putnam State Forest.
Seelig said the Stowe purchase will also allow the public to freely access that tract of land, as it’s been closed off for several years.
Both the Mount Holly and Stowe areas host Vermont Association of Snow Traveler (VAST) trails, Class 4 roads and other trails, according to VHCB.
Seelig said watershed protection is also a factor in land conservation.
Between Stowe, Mount Holly and the other land conservation awards, 5,650 acres of “natural areas” and public recreational lands are being conserved, along with 617 acres of farmland.
Other land grant awards included:
— A $750,000 award to The Nature Conservancy to protect 3,469 acres of land near Glebe Mountain. The area is home to bears and several species of rare plants. The project will also open the area up to recreation, such as hunting, fishing, kayaking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It will also protect the Cobb Brook, which feeds the West River.
— Four farms across Addison, Orleans and Chittenden counties will be conserved through the Vermont Land Trust. VHCB supplied $563,500, while the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service is contributing $616,500, according to VHCB.
In St. Johnsbury, funds are being allocated to New Avenue Apartments, formerly known as Depot Square. According to VCHB, the project involves renovation work that will result in 39 “affordable rentals, remedying health and safety code issues, increasing energy efficiency and preserving and expanding rental assistance for low-income Vermonters.”
The project is a public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing St. Johnsbury’s downtown. VHCB will distribute $2,237,000 in Housing Revenue Bond Funds and $843,000 in National Housing Trust funds to the project. All told, it’s a $12 million project.
In Newport, Rural Edge is rehabilitating Governor Prouty Apartments. The $3.2 million project focuses on 12 units on the second floor. VHCB is facilitating awards of $355,226 in state funds and $375,000 from the federal HOME funding. The project also has $1.3 million from USDA Rural Development.
In Vergennes, VHCB has awarded $230,744 in HOME program funding to Housing Vermont and the Addison County Community Trust to build 24 apartments.
In Brattleboro, Groundworks Collaborative plans to build a 34-bed day shelter, which in the winter will convert to a night shelter. VHCB has awarded the project $325,000. It has funding from some other sources, but the $3.1 million project needs to raise another $1.61 million, according to the VHCB release.